Wednesday, October 5, 2016

HOT DOGS--11 CENTS

Picking up on the father/son theme, it's always delightful to find a much-loved, quirky dad like the one Daniel Cardozo describes in this story. Daniel--full disclosure!--used to work for me as a personal assistant, and a very fine personal assistant he was. Ellie and I were sad when he moved north and on to an admittedly more noble occupation, as a passionate proponent and now board member at Ethix Ventures, an organization that "aspires to serve as a gathering place for commerce that puts people and the environment at the head of a value chain today dominated solely by price." Look for the union label! Given the unconventional background evoked by his "Hot Dogs--11 Cents" story, it's perhaps hardly surprising to find him devoting his working life to an unconventional marketing company. It's refreshing to be reminded that some among us still devote their professional lives to service in an ethical cause.


HOT DOGS--11 CENTS
by Daniel Cardozo

Fatherhood fit my dad like a glove...eventually. Looking back, knowing what I know now, dad was frankly miserable during my early youth, barely keeping his head above water while navigating a marijuana addiction, the fading glory of college, and an ignominious career with the U.S. Postal Service of the 1980s (remember "going postal?").

And fatherhood. After his own hemmed-in rearing by old-school disciplinarians had been thoroughly gainsaid by the Sixties, dad was in no mood to keep us kids in line with spankings or a stern countenance. At the same time, boys will be boys and a man, despite the Sixties, still needs some peace and quiet after a hard day. When I was about five, and my brother about seven, my dad turned a corner and began the long crawl out of a truly terrifying bout of depression. Around this same time, not coincidentally, he learned how to keep us in line, but by using his creativity and his imagination, rather than an iron fist.

After a particularly riotous afternoon of chasing each other around the house, complete with the usual tears and tattle-telling, my brother and I were shocked to find ourselves locked together in the bathroom. Dad had relied on a certain authoritative tone to get us into the room, but once safely locked inside, his tender eccentricity came back to the fore as he cooed cryptically, "You can't come out until you can tell me the price of a hot dog in 1917."


Ben and I looked at each other, a cease-fire immediately prevailing as we united in a solemn quest. At five and seven, we had no idea how much hot dogs cost in the present day, much less 1917.  After a few minutes we agreed to simply shout guesses through the door until it opened, but to no avail. We sat in silence for a time, Ben on the toilet seat and me propped on my elbows in the tub. The minutes ticked by and all seemed hopeless. We began to really wonder if we'd ever be let out. Suddenly, shattering the gloomy quiet, Ben called out a very precise number, much lower than anything we'd guessed so far. To our everlasting delight, the door opened and dad appeared, grinning. Ben had been staring at an old black and white photograph on the wall, of an old saloon with a menu just visible above the bar, if you squinted. Hot dogs -- 11 cents.

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